Let's Not Add to the Burden and the Pain
A number of months ago, Marvin Schick ran paid Day School Advocacy Ads in the Jewish Press. Sadly enough, these paid advertisements were only accepted by the Jewish Press and were refused for publication by the Yated Ne'eman and the Ha'Modia. The advertisements were not designed to invoke universal agreement, but rather discussion.
There was one particular advertisement (Message 7 of 12) that really struck a chord with me. Since I am unable to post the PDF file, I am duplicating the text below:
Let's Not Add to the Burden and Pain
Yeshivas must rely on tuition to pay staff and meet their obligations. They do not have to add to the burden and emotional strain in many religious homes.
Our schools teach Torah, how to daven and how to perform mitzvos. They also teach midos, proper behavior and respect toward teachers, parents, and fellow students. At times, children are taught to believe that money is theirs for the asking, as when they are told to ask parents for money for trips, tzedakah and gifts. They come to think that money comes from a water tap.
Even when parents can afford it, this is wrong. But many parents cannot afford it. When a child says to a parent, "my teacher said that I must bring in money" and the parent doesn't have it think of the pain--for parent and child. Think of parents with five or more children in school who do not have as much as five dollars to spare.
Money matters should be between the school and parents.
Well, I am happy that Dr. Marvin Schick wrote about this issue. Long before this advertisement appeared in the Jewish Press, and long before blogging was even a thought in my mind, I have been talking about this issue (to my husband). Nearly every time we are visiting family, I notice notes sent home with the children with requests for money for this, that, or another thing.
One particular note got me hot under the collar. I noticed a handwritten and decorated invitation from daughter to mother posted on the billboard requesting $18 per head ($36 minimum for a mother-daughter couple) for a luncheon for Mother's Day. Well, color me mad. If this is not the definition of chutzpah, then I don't know what is: a child asks her parent to spend $36 on lunch (or a child's teacher TELLS the parent to cough up $36 for lunch)? Getting a young child all excited about a big class event that they helped prepare for gives the parents little opportunity to say "no, honey, this is not in the budget and we are not attending."
Add to these extracurricular events the cost of babysitting (a near reality in frum families, especially if the father is working on a Sunday), and $36 easily becomes $50 plus dollars for a short outing. Even teenage babysitters are unionized these days. Times have changed from from the "good old days" when a babysitter babysat for $1 per hour per child and anything more seemed generous.
I'm still shocked every time I see these requests for money sent home through the children. Having attended public school the constant requests for money from parents (send via the children) just didn't happen. In elementary school, we were not required to buy many extras beyond standard supplies. By middle school there were more cash outlays required as we were required to buy a PE uniform that cost something like $15 or $20. It was extremely ugly, and was probably the most expensive outfit I ever owned at the age of 12 years.
In high school there were plenty of activities that required some investment: sports, band, and choir. But parental permission was required to be involved in the first place, most students earned some of their own money, and most extra-curricular activities had some parental oversight which kept any lofty dreams and ideas in check with reality. More recently my public high school has tacked on $10 a year lab fees for certain courses, but all cash outlay is clearly delineated in the student manual and is known to parents and students alike, months before the start of the next school year when students register for their classes.
Growing up my mother would always express just how inappropriate it was when a (public school) teacher would assign projects that required the parents to invest in a myriad of art supplies unexpectedly. My mother, who grew up in an extremely poor family, was sensitive to these issues and would remind us that not every parent can afford these expenses, and that if and when additional supplies were required, that the parents should be given ample warning to prepare and that ideally a fund should be collected to assist poorer students with these expenses.
I realize that Orthodox Yeshivot and Day Schools have a need to raise money though other channels and that the constant requests that go home to parents, via the children often are the means to bringing in the extra funds needed. But, it is nevertheless completely inappropriate to send these notices home, especially with elementary school children!
It is cruel and insensitive to spring one unexpected and unbudgeted request after another on the parents, for one child after another. While we may never be able to resolve the "tuition crisis," we could at least alleviate some of the extra burdens on our families by putting a stop to this practice that I can deem as nothing less than unthoughtful and insensitive.
We already have activity fees for required activities and materials fees for required materials. If a teacher wants to require an activity or material , that expense should be brought to the administration for approval and added to the activity fee. If a teacher wants to have an optional activity, those expenses should be delineated before the start of the school year, along with price and due date for funds, and be provided to parents directly along with the tuition bill. This way parents can choose which activities fit into their already tight budgets and not be put in the uncomfortable positions that they are being placed in currently.
Teaching proper values to children is an uphill battle today. Let's not let the hill get any steeper and let our schools know just how inappropriate these requests are. Parents should be in charge of their budgets, not their children.